By Pradeep S Mehta
The Scindia School brings back some very pleasant memories of one of the best periods of my life. I studied there from 1960-65, starting in Class-6 at the senior school and ending with higher secondary. For the 1st year I was in Shivaji House, and when the North Block came into being, I was transferred to Vivekanand House (since renamed, and I always wondered why).
Some of my experiences were straight out of an Enid Blyton story. In the summer of 1963, me and Navnit Shah (Chaitanya House), when we were in class-9, bunked the fort and went down to Gwalior town. After stealing a gate pass from my housemaster, Shri S B Salvi’s apartment, we went through the Urvai Ghati gate. We were dressed in coloured clothes to avoid any suspicion. Some one tattled, and we were named in the school assembly the next day. Our two houses also got a negative marking for the overall efficiency shield. I was thrashed by my house prefect, two years senior, a mona sardar: Lamba. While the memory of the thrashing became dim over time, the trip itself was quite memorable. After all how many other school boys could do such an adventurous thing, without harming any one. That’s what I learnt, be adventurous, which has paid me in real life.
Another bit of Blyton that we did was to go into the cannon ammunition batteries on Sundays around the fort parapets. These were usually low height, dark and damp, with bats, hundreds of their droppings, dead beings and what not. One never ventured too far in them. I understand that later they were sealed off. That too was very thrilling and exciting, things which I can tell my grandchildren.
Being adventurous was not the only thing that I learnt at the school. The other more important thing was discipline. Everything was to be done in a particular manner and in time, otherwise god help you. Once I had stitched a new blazer at home, but that was of a different shade than what the school blazer was. I was asked to get one from the school clothing store.
One day in 1962, when I was in Class-7, I was walking to the main school building with my hands in the pocket. Then school prefect: Late Madhav Rao Scindia, saw me thus, and sent me for four rounds of the cricket ground opposite the main building. It is from then that I hardly ever keep my hands in my pockets. For me that was a lesson in not only discipline, but on looking smart at any time. If one looks at the current generation, this is hardly a factor in their thinking. Sab chalta hai, seems to permeate their attitudes which are often inspired by the bicep-bulging filmi heroes. Alas!
In conclusion, it was several other things which existed at the school, in particular the institution of astachal and eating in thali katories, without aping the west—as happens with other similar schools. All these good things leave a deep impression on an adoloscent’s life and helps shape them to be better citizens than many others. Secondly, how traditions and culture are equally important for a person’s character. That is what is lacking in our society today, and unless something drastic is done, as a country, we will continue to grow but not without the pangs of growing in a directionless manner. Finally, some of things that I learnt at school, such as in the voluntary labour camps (the dignity of labour sense), the NCC (the discipline) and the social service league (assisting the disadvantaged) has made me what I am today, a social activist and a public citizen.